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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: GHG Rules Delay, BP to Blame, New Superfund Sites, $20m Northrop Cleanup

The EPA said on Tuesday that it would not meet a court-ordered Sept. 30 deadline for issuing rules governing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other large sources, The New York Times reported. An EPA official said that the decision to delay the proposed rule was driven by complex technical considerations and not by political pressure from the White House or industry groups. But Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) linked the delay to Obama’s recent axing of a toughened ground-level ozone standard, saying, “Not only will EPA’s barrage of regulations cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, they may cost President Obama his own job, and he knows it all too well. That’s why he is punting on a number of them until after the 2012 election.” It is just the latest in a series of delays to the GHG rule and to EPA regulations in general. The EPA previously delayed the deadline for the power plant GHG rule from July 26 to September 30.

BP was mostly to blame for last year’s catastrophic offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the government concluded in a final report that could have expensive implications in the multibillion-dollar lawsuits pending against the company, according to Reuters.  The U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department’s offshore oil regulator said BP was solely to blame for 21 of 35 contributing causes to the well blow-out and leak, and shared blame for eight more, mainly by excessively cutting costs. Meanwhile, the Interior Department said that, following the reports, notices of civil violations will be sent to BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that Congress should not pass a highway bill without an accompanying expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling, The Hill reported.  Improving infrastructure would also make it easier to transport greater supplies of oil and gas across the country and create jobs in both fields, Boehner said in a speech at the Economic Club of Washington.

The EPA announced on Thursday that it has added 15 hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites and is proposing the addition of 11 potential Superfund sites to the list.  Among the 15 sites added to the list are Armstrong World Industries (ceiling tile manufacturer) in Macon, Ga., and Falcon Refinery (inactive refinery) in Ingleside, Texas.  The 11 proposed sites include Continental Cleaners (former dry cleaners) in Miami, Fla., and Eighteenmile Creek (contaminated creek) in Niagra County, N.Y.

The EPA announced that it has ordered Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to spend about $20 million to build a groundwater cleanup system to alleviate contamination from VOCs and 1,4 dioxane at the former Benchmark Technology facility in the City of Industry, Calif.  The Benchmark facility is located within the San Gabriel Valley Superfund Sites.

Republican lawmakers released e-mails showing that the Office of Management and Budget expressed frustration that it was being pressured by the White House to accelerate a $528 million government loan to Solyndra, a California solar firm that declared bankruptcy last month, The New York Times reported.  The disclosure became a focus of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing a week after news reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the company’s headquarters, though Congress started investigating the deal months before the firm went bankrupt.

The European Union approved draft rules to establish an auction platform for selling carbon emission permits during the second half of 2012, Reuters reported.  The auctions will be carried out over a single platform for 24 member states, while Britain, Germany and Poland will use their own platforms.  Starting in 2013, participating companies will have to buy most of their allowances at auction, rather than being awarded.

The EPA on Thursday announced the release of Plan EJ 2014, a three-year proposal to advance environmental justice efforts in nine urban areas “overburdened by pollution.”  Plan EJ 2014 is EPA’s strategy to meet the mandate of Executive Order 12898, which states that each federal agency, with the law as its guide, should make environmental justice in minority and low-income areas part of its mission.

The House Natural Resources Committee will renew the debate over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by holding a hearing next week on the job-creating potential of development in the area, the Associated Press reported.  Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said drilling on less than three percent of the refuge’s total land could create thousands of jobs and $150 billion or more in revenue.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a request by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that it decline to review Entergy’s application for a 20-year license renewal at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in the aftermath of the radiation crisis at the Fukushima plant in Japan, The Boston Globe reported. Coakley has raised concerns that the Pilgrim plant has the same design as the Fukushima plant for on-site storage of still-radioactive spent fuel rods.

The Subcommittee on Water and Power of the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday held a hearing on H.R. 2842, a bill that would streamline the permitting process and administrative costs for the installation of increased small canal and pipeline hydropower development projects.  The bill’s sponsor Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) said the legislation would create jobs and boost clean energy.

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